Archives for category: Extremism

Jan Resseger looks behind the daily news and ties together fast-moving events in the red states. The sudden proliferation of voucher programs is no accident, she writes, nor is it a response to public demands. It is a carefully crafted, well-funded strategy to defund public schools, to smash teachers’ unions, and to implement a rightwing ideology that does not benefit students or improve education.

She writes:

This week in Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds signed an Education Savings Account, universal voucher program into law. And last week in Utah, the same kind of voucher plan took the first step toward adoption when it was passed by Utah’s House of Representatives.

The Des Moines Register reports on Iowa’s new vouchers. The program will “phase in over three years and eventually allow all Iowa families to use up to $7,598 a year in an ‘education savings account’ for private school tuition. If any money is left over after tuition and fees, families could use the funds for specific educational expenses, including textbooks, tutoring, standardized testing fees, online education programs and vocational and life skills training. The $7,598 per private school student is the same amount of funding the state provides to public school students and is expected to rise in future years… The bill allows the Iowa Department of Education to contract with a third party to administer the education savings accounts, but the state has not yet issued a request for proposals from companies seeking to manage the funds.”

It would appear that the Iowa Legislature tried to calm the fears of the public school community by promising that, “Public school districts would also receive an additional $1,205 in funding for students receiving education savings accounts who live within the public school district’s boundaries.” But despite that promise, a drop in overall public school funding is expected: “By the fourth year, the (Legislative Services) agency estimates public school districts will receive $49.8 million in new per-student funds for private school students within the public district’s boundaries. The agency also expects a net decrease of $46 million in public school funding as a result of more students attending private schools.”

It is hard to keep track of all the states that now have school vouchers or are considering voucher programs and to know which states have the latest flavor of vouchers—Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Most ESA programs, unlike Iowa’s, don’t even require that families use the vouchers at private schools. In most places, ESA’s can be used for educational programs, for educational tools and materials like books and computers, and for homeschooling. In some states families can use the money for so-called micro-schools in which families come together and hire a teacher to work with children in someone’s home.

Why is there so much so much legislative activity about expanding vouchers? Several factors are important to consider, and many of them were the subject of economist Gordon Lafer’s analysis in The One-Percent Solution. Lafer’s book focused on the public policy that flowed from state legislatures after the Tea Party wave election in 2010, but his observations are still on point as we begin 2023. Lafer enumerates all the reasons why far-right ideologues and big corporate moneyed interests seek to undermine and privatize public schools: “At first glance, it may seem odd that corporate lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation for Independent Business, or Americans for Prosperity would care to get involved in an issue as far removed from commercial activity as school reform. In fact, they have each made this a top legislative priority… The campaign to transform public education brings together multiple strands of the agenda… The teachers’ union is the single biggest labor organization in most states—thus for both anti-union ideologues and Republican strategists, undermining teachers’ unions is of central importance. Education is one of the largest components of public budgets, and in many communities the school system is the single largest employer—thus the goals of cutting budgets, enabling new tax cuts for the wealthy, shrinking the government, and lowering wage and benefit standards in the public sector all coalesce around the school system… There are always firms that aim to profit from the privatization of public services, but the sums involved in K-12 education are an order of magnitude larger than any other service, and have generated an intensity of corporate legislative engagement unmatched by any other branch of government. Finally, the notion that one’s kids have a right to a decent education represents the most substantive right to which Americans believe we are entitled, simply by dint of residence… (F)or those interested in lowering citizens’ expectations of what we have a right to demand from government, there is no more central fight than around public education. In all these ways, then, school reform presents something like the perfect crystallization of the corporate legislative agenda.” (The One-Percent Solution, pp 128-129)

It is hard for public school advocates to mobilize nationally against the expansion of vouchers. Voucher battles are fought state by state because public education and the funding of public education is a state-by-state issue. Advocates are likely to focus on public education legislation in their own state and not to pay attention to what’s happening elsewhere. And citizens are not likely to pay much attention to what is happening in the legislature. Once again, Gordon Lafer identifies the problem: “(M)any of the factors that strengthen corporate political influence are magnified in the states. First, far fewer people pay attention to state government, implying wider latitude for well-funded organized interests… Apart from labor unions and a handful of progressive activists, the corporate agenda… encounters little public resistance at the state level because hardly anyone knows about or understands the issues… So, too, corporate lobbies’ financial advantage is magnified in the states. Citizens United marked a sea change in state as well as federal politics.” (The One Percent Solution, pp. 34-36)

Christopher Lubienski, a professor of education policy at Indiana University who has studied the impact of school privatization and the politics around privatizing public schools, recently published a reminder that school privatization is driven by the power of the corporate agenda. Expansion of vouchers has never been an expression of voters’ overall preference: “School choice is continuing to expand across the United states…. But these successes often come in spite of overwhelming voter opposition to school choice programs… According to the pro-voucher organization, the U.S. has over 75 publicly funded private school choice programs, including vouchers, and education savings accounts, as well as another 45 charter school programs. But all of these programs have been implemented by legislators, not the electorate… In fact, voters have been allowed to weigh in on school choice programs only nine times since 2000, and they almost always reject them, often by overwhelming margins. Only twice did school choice programs pass through the ballot box. In 2012, Georgia voters empowered their legislature with the ability to create charter schools. That same year… Washington voters passed a charter school referendum.”

Who are the far-right advocacy groups and think tanks powerfully promoting Education Savings Account vouchers? They include the usual suspects: the American Legislative Exchange Council and a state- by-state group of think tanks that are ALEC’s partners in the State Policy Network, EdChoice, the Goldwater Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Institute for Justice, which provides two model laws—“Education Savings Account Act: Publicly Funded,” and “Education Savings Account Act: Tax-Credit Funded“—so that state legislators can merely adapt a canned statute to their own state’s particular needs. SourceWatch reports corporate funding streams for these and other far-right think tanks that promote vouchers—funding from the Koch Brothers, the Bradley Foundation, and investments from the Donor’s Capital Fund, a powerful investor of corporate dark money since the 2010, U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United.

In the past two years, the campaign to undermine public schooling and promote the expansion of vouchers has developed a new strategy to convince parents that their children in public schools are being brainwashed by critical race theory and surrounded by discussion of gender and sexual orientation. In a new report published by the Network for Public Education this week, political scientist Maurice Cunningham traces the money behind what may appear to be a spontaneous emergence of parents’ groups—Parents Defending Education, Moms for Liberty, and No Left Turn in Education. Cunningham points to clues that these are not local grassroots groups of parents; their websites, for example, betray a big investment in communications. And while, for example, the founders of Parents Defending Education (PDE) claim to be a bunch of working moms, Cunningham explains: “PDE took in $3,178,272 in contributions and grants in 2021… Donor’s Trust, a dark money donor associated with the Koch network donated $20,250 to PDE in 2021. The Achelis & Bodman Foundation which funds voucher and charter school programs and targets public education, contributed $25,000. Searle Freedom Trust, another right-wing donor with ties to Donors Trust, contributed $250,000 in 2021. We don’t know all the names on the checks, but we do know that those checks had to be pretty large, that the attorneys and consultants sit at the hierarchy of right-wing operatives, and that the board members and staffers are connected to the highest levels of conservative donors including the Koch network.”

The same people who are promoting vouchers are working to scare parents with the huge, culture war campaign driven by identifiable funders and a mass of dark money supporting an education marketplace and undermining parents’ confidence in public schools. But as Christopher Lubienski, the scholar who has studied the effect of the privatization of public education reminds us, expanding vouchers has not improved the outcomes for our children: “(R)ecent research is repeatedly showing that… vouchers are not a good investment. Although publicly funded vouchers may be propping up some private schools that might otherwise go out of business, they are not really helping the people they purport to help. In fact… study after study shows that students using vouchers are falling behind where they would have been if they had remained in public schools. Thus, policymakers might think twice about defying voters on initiatives that actually cause harm to children.”

The political theorist Benjamin Barber warns that school choice does not really provide freedom for families: “We are seduced into thinking that the right to choose from a menu is the essence of liberty, but with respect to relevant outcomes the real power, and hence the real freedom, is in the determination of what is on the menu. The powerful are those who set the agenda, not those who choose from the alternatives it offers. We select menu items privately, but we can assure meaningful menu choices only through public decision-making.” (Consumed, p. 139)

Maurice Cunningham, retired professor of political scientist, has written an exposé of the well-funded fake “parent groups” that spring up overnight to disrupt school board meetings and demand control of books, curriculim, and COVID protocols. Who is behind them? Read the latest report from the Network for Public Education: “Merchants of Deception: Parent Props and Their Funders.”

They show up shouting at school board meetings with endless complaints. The press interviews them as though they are some “regular moms” looking out for their children, but they are not. They are a well-funded facade for the Koch, Walton, and DeVos families to disrupt and destroy public education.

In our new report, author and academician Maurice Cunningham pulls back the veil on the players, tactics, and funders. This must-read report identifies the who, how, and why behind “Merchants of Deception: Parent Props and Their Funders.

Cunningham is author of the new book Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization.

Tom Ultican, who was a teacher of advanced math and physics in San Diego, wrote a terrific post about the results of school board elections in his area of California. The new front of rightwing cranks and anti-vaxxers ran for school boards promising to save children from public health measures, along with the usual religious zealots who were exercised about CRT and teachers turning children gay.

Tom’s description of the contenders and the races is fascinating. I urge you to read it.

He was invited to make endorsements in many school board elections, and he did. His candidates racked up some impressive victories.

If you read his post, you will learn who El Guapo is.

I found his post very encouraging in what is often a tide of bad news. know I would sleep better at night if I knew that Tom Ultican’s stamp of approval was a decisive factor in school board elections.

These are the closing lines in his post:

Some Final Thoughts

We are a society being buried in lies.

“The election was stolen; everybody knows I won in a landslide.” This lie is still believed by 60% of Republicans because they watch Fox News which blatantly lies.

School choice is based on Milton Friedman’s lie that Public Schools are government monopolies. There are about 19,000 school districts in the United States each with their own governing bodies the vast majority of which are elected. That is not a monopoly and in reality school choice is about not having to go to school with those peoples children. It’s a racist agenda.

Well financed propagandist Christopher Rufo has widely spread the lie that CRT is being taught in K-12 Schools. He claims it is making white children uncomfortable; another lie.

A lot of people believe the lie that public schools are grooming students to “turn them” gay. The result is censorship and a small minority of LGBTQ+ students being tormented for who they are. They are people and they deserve respect. Prejudice is a social disease.

These lies have been used to divide us and distract us from billionaires grabbing more and more for themselves. Economic inequality has reached heights never before witnessed in this country and putting up with lies is a root cause. If we lose our Democracy then there will be no choice but to put up with lies. Look at what is going on in Russia, China and Hungry.

The American public school system is a treasure and must be protected from liars and their paymasters. If someone tells you that voucher schools and charter schools are superior to public schools, they are lying.

I agree with every word!

The Mississippi Free Press is a fearless news outlet that takes on controversial topics and also highlights news and culture in the nation’s poorest state. At the beginning of last year, it ran a three-part series on Christian Dominionism, which has a strong foothold in the state. The Dominionists promoted the abortion law that led to the reversal of Roe v. Wade. But their fight to outlaw abortion is only one aspect of their agenda. Their goal is to change every aspect of the law and society to conform to their view of Christian rule. As part of their mission, they seek to eliminate public schools, which they consider godless. Their goal is to make the United States a Christian nation. They were thrilled by Trump’s appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The following excerpt is drawn from part one of a three-part series. I’m posting only twice today so you will take the time to read this important article in full.

Staff writer Ashton Pittman wrote:

Alliance Defending Freedom’s founders included Mississippian Don Wildmon, who also founded the Tupelo-based American Family Association. Wildmon and the others in the group of nearly three dozen conservative Christians who launched the organization in 1993 as the Alliance Defense Fund envisioned it as a counter to the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed overt efforts to mix religion and government and was known for its support of abortion rights and the rights of sexual minorities..

Six years after launching, the ADF created The Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a Christian summer training program for up-and-coming attorneys. In the ADF’s 2000 tax filings, the organization explained that the Blackstone program “provides cutting-edge legal education” and also offers attorneys access to “up-to-date developments in the areas of religious liberties, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values.”

“As a rigorous internship for exceptionally capable and highly motivated law students, the Blackstone Fellowship inspires a distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law, and particularly in the areas of public policy and religious liberty,” the ADF’s IRS tax filings say.

“With this ongoing program, it’s ADF’s goal to train a new generation of lawyers who will rise to positions of influence and leadership as legal scholars, litigators, judges-and perhaps even Supreme Court judges—who will work to ensure that justice is carried out in America’s courtrooms.”

The ADF’s description of itself in those tax filings is emblematic of “full-blown” Christian dominionist thought, Frederick Clarkson told the Mississippi Free Press on Dec. 3, 2021. He is a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a Boston-area think tank that monitors anti-democratic movements and ideologies including Christian dominionism and white nationalism.

“That’s the idea that conservative Christians should be dominating every aspect of society,” he explained. Adherents to dominionism often talk about a “biblical worldview” or talk about “building the kingdom,” he added.

Christian dominionism is a religious and political movement that began in earnest during the 20th century and includes a cross-section of various denominations. Many who subscribe to it do not self-identify as dominionists, though, Clarkson noted.

“Not everyone is going to say, ‘Hey, I’m a dominionist. I’m all about theocracy.’ Not many people are going to say that, but this body of theological thought has been percolating throughout the evangelical world for decades,” he said. “If you think that America should be a Christian nation, well, what should that look like? And that’s where the dominionist agenda comes in. It’s not just any conservative thinking.”

Dominionist goals reach far beyond abortion, he said.

“While abortion and Roe and Dobbs are what we’re looking at in the heat of the moment, this is just one battle in a larger war for the world,” Clarkson said….

Taking Control of ‘Seven Mountains’

The New Apostolic Reformation dates back to C. Peter Wagner, who began preaching in the 1950s and died in 2016. He taught that God had begun preparing the world for a “third great awakening” that would sweep the earth before the apocalyptic events foretold in the Book of Revelation take place.

As part of this awakening, Wagner taught, Christians would take dominion over the “seven mountains” or “seven spheres” of cultural influence: family, religion, education, business, government, media and the arts. (Some adherents of the belief, known as “seven mountains dominionism,” instead combine media and arts into a single category and add the military as the seventh “mountain”). Top Mississippi state officials, including Gov. Tate Reeves, attended a prayer event in May 2021 hosted by an organization that openly adheres to “seven mountains” beliefs….

While Calvinism tends toward an intellectual approach to religion and theology, Pentecostalism, which includes hundreds of denominations and independent, non-denominational churches, is much more experientially oriented. Unlike Calvinists, Pentecostals believe in the modern occurrence of spiritual “gifts” such as prophecy, speaking in tongues and supernatural healing.

Despite their differences, including the timeline for Christian dominionism, Reconstructionists and Pentecostals held a series of dialogues throughout the late 20th century to flesh out a common set of goals and principles.

After one series of Reconstructionist-Pentecostal dialogues in Dallas in 1987, Clarkson notes, Christian Reconstructionist pastor Joseph Morecraft declared that “God is blending Presbyterian theology with Charismatic zeal into a force that cannot be stopped.” (“Pentecostal” and “Charismatic” are often used interchangeably or to describe largely overlapping Christian sects that believe in spiritual gifts).

Those dialogues, Clarkson told the Mississippi Free Press, shaped the modern dominionist movement and much of 21st-century American politics.

“That opened the door to political action that brought about the Christian Right that we see today,” Clarkson said.

“So as elements of Pentecostalism adopted these ideas, then we began to see what we now call the New Apostolic Reformation, and they were able to package it in a way where you didn’t have to have a P.h.D. In theology to understand. So they talked about simply dividing up all of society.

“They said, well, there’s seven main sections of society, and you need to figure out which ‘mountain’ you need to be a part of trying to conquer in order to build the kingdom of God. Really smart marketing. That’s what we’re talking about here.”

In his 2008 book, “Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World,” Wagner, the NAR and Seven Mountains theology pioneer, put it simply: “We have an assignment from God to take dominion and transform society.”

‘The Battle To Take The Land’

Like Engle, Alliance Defending Freedom’s CEO and general counsel Michael Farris has long sought to use the levers of society to establish Christ’s kingdom on earth. He founded the Home School Legal Defense Association, an ADF affiliate that has spent years lobbying state governments to make it easier for Christian parents to homeschool their children. (Rushdoony emphasized the necessity of Christian homeschooling to equip future generations for Christian dominion).

In the first chapter of his 2005 book, “The Joshua Generation: Restoring the Heritage of Christian Leadership,” Farris made a bold claim: “I have met countless future senators, governors, presidents, and Supreme Court justices.” He was describing his meetings with parents of homeschooled children, where he says “dreams of generational greatness burn brightly.”

“These moms and dads truly believe that their children are called to be the leaders of the future. … They believe that their own children, in many cases, have unusually high prospects for being particular people who will rise to the top levels of government, law, journalism, media, religion, art, business, and science,” he wrote, referring to the seven mountains Wagner taught. “I think they are absolutely right.”

In the book, Farris explained that the point of advocating for homeschooling rights in state legislatures was never simply about homeschooling itself.

“While those battles are important and will always continue to some degree, homeschool freedom is not the end goal. It is a means to a far greater end,” Farris wrote. The Christian homeschool movement can judge its long-term success, he said, by evaluating their results against a passage in the Book of Hebrews that describes godly heroes “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames … and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.”

The end goal of the Christian homeschooling movement, he said, was to raise a generation of children who would do those very things in the “Christian assignment of redeeming the culture.”

“How should we judge our success? … Do we see our children administering justice, gaining what was promised, shutting the mouths of lions, and quenching the fury of the flames? … Have they become powerful in battle?”

Public Schools ‘Essentially Satanic’

Farris and others like him, Clarkson said, fear that sending children to public schools is the same as “turning them over to institutions that are essentially Satanic and teaching children things that are not only non-Christian, but anti-Christian.”

“The idea of Christianizing schools or taking these children out of the public schools and into private Christian academies or homeschool has been in the works for a long time,” he said. “They managed to get right-to-homeschool as part of the Republican platform under Reagan in the 1980s. This has been a long-term process.”

Farris is now CEO and general counsel of ADF.

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett gave lectures at ADF’s Blackstone training program for future lawyers.

In its 2000 tax filings, the ADF explained that once fellows complete the Blackstone program, they will have “caught a vision for how God can use them as judges, law professors, and practicing attorneys to help keep the door open for the spread of the gospel in America.”

The ADF also said in the filings that it had “effectively equipped attorneys to battle the homosexual agenda, defend parental rights, and protect religious freedom” with a separate training program known as the National Litigation Academy.

The founders of this nation wrote a Constitution to govern the new nation. They did not say it would be a “Christian nation.” They specifically barred any religious tests for holding office. There are many religions in this nation, as well as atheists. The Dominionists threaten the freedoms of all those who do not share their views.

I urge you to send a contribution to the Mississippi Free Press to help them continue the important work they do. I sent them $100, my second contribution to help sustain their wonderful voice in Mississippi.

Thom Hartmann looks back to the Ronald Reagan presidency to explain how Republicans seized the strategy of tax cuts and spending to counter the Democrats’ winning formula of social welfare spending. Now Republicans are threatening to force the federal government to default on the national debt, which would plunge the global economy into chaos, unless Democrats make deep cuts in social programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Hartmann writes:

The media refers to it as a debate around the debt ceiling, but it’s actually far simpler than that. And entirely political.

Back in November, a few weeks after House Republicans won the election and seized control of that body, I wrote to you warning that the House Republicans would try the same scam that Ronald Reagan first rolled out in the 1980s. I wrapped the article up with the “hope that Democratic politicians and our media will, finally, call the GOP out on Wanniski’s and Reagan’s Two Santa Clauses scam.”

So far, no soap. I haven’t heard a single mention of Two Santas in the mainstream media, and I’ll bet you haven’t, either. That’s the bad news.

The good news — perhaps — is that the scam has lost its sting after working so well for them for 42 years. President Biden and House Democrats are standing firm, saying they have no intention of negotiating around the debt ceiling with terrorists threatening to destroy our economy.

But even if it’s the last gasp of this scam, it appears House Republicans plan to go out with a bang. So let’s quickly review how Two Santas works.

Back in 1976 the Republican Party was a smoking ruin. Nixon had resigned after being busted for lying about his “secret plan to end the Vietnam War,” his involvement in the Watergate burglary, and his taking bribes from Jimmy Hoffa and the Milk Lobby. He only avoided prosecution because Gerald Ford pardoned him. 

His first Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had also resigned to avoid prosecution for taking bribes.

Newspaper and television editorialists were openly speculating the GOP might implode. The Party hadn’t held the House of Representatives for more than two consecutive years since 1930(and wouldn’t until 1994), Jerry Ford had ended the War the year before in a national humiliation, the unemployment rate was over 7 percent, as was inflation after hovering around 11 percent the year before.

The Republican Party had little to offer the American people beyond anti-communism, their mainstay since the 1950s.

Americans knew it was Democrats who’d brought them Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, subsidized college, the right to unionize, antipoverty programs, and sent men to the moon. And they knew Republicans had opposed the “big government spending” associated with every single one of them.

But one man — a Republican strategist and editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal named Jude Wanniski — thought he saw a way out. It was, he argued, a strategy that could eventually bring about a permanent Republican governing majority.

In a WSJ op-ed that year, Wanniski pointed outthat Americans thought of Democrats as the “Party of Santa” and Republicans as, essentially, Scrooge. Republicans, he noted, hadn’t even proposed a tax cut in 22 years!

The solution, Wanniski proposed, was for Republicans to start pushing tax cuts whenever the GOP held the White House. This would establish their Santa bona fides, particularly if Democrats objected. It would flip the script so Democrats would fill the role of Scrooge.

To make it even easier for Republicans to cut taxes, Wanniski invented and publicized a new economic theory called Supply-Side Economics. When taxes went down, he said, government revenue would magically go up!

Four years later, when Reagan came into the White House with the election of 1980, he picked up Wanniski’s strategy and doubled down on it. (In the primary of 1980, he’d even run on it: his primary opponent, George Herbert Walker Bush, derided it as “Voodoo Economics.”)

Reagan not only cut taxes on the rich: he also radically increased government spending, goosing the economy into a sugar high while throwing the nation deeply into debt.

Citing Supply-Side Economics, in eight short years Reagan ran up greater deficits than every president from George Washington to Jerry Ford combined, taking our national debt from around $800 billion all the way up to around $2.6 trillion when he left office.

By 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency, Reagan and Bush’s debt had climbed to over $4.2 trillion, giving Republicans a chance to double down on Two Santas. Bill Clinton would be their test case.

House Republicans loudly demanded that Clinton “do something!” about the national debt, waving the debt ceiling like a cudgel. Over the next eight years they repeatedly wielded the debt ceiling, shutting down the government twice. The battles lifted Newt Gingrich to the speakership. 

Clinton caved, making massive cuts to the social safety net to get a balanced budget, a gut-shot to the Democratic Santa programs.

By the end of the Clinton presidency the formula was set. When Republicans held the White House, they’d spend like drunken Santas and cut taxes to the bone to drive up the national debt.

When Democrats come into the presidency, Republicans would use the debt ceiling to force them to cut their own social programs and shoot the Democratic Santa. 

As I noted last November, when Clinton shot Santa Claus the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as GOP politicians campaigned on a “Republican Santa” platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases.

Democrats had controlled the House of Representatives in almost every single year since the Republican Great Depression of the 1930s, but with Newt Gingrich rigorously enforcing Wanniski’s Two Santa Claus strategy, they used the debt ceiling as a weapon.

State after state turned red and the Republican Party rose to take over, in less than a decade, every single lever of power in the federal government from the Supreme Court to the White House.

Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton in 1999Wanniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part:

“We of course should be indebted to Art Laffer for all time for his Curve… But as the primary political theoretician of the supply-side camp, I began arguing for the ‘Two Santa Claus Theory’ in 1974. If the Democrats are going to play Santa Claus by promoting more spending, the Republicans can never beat them by promoting less spending. They have to promise tax cuts…”

Ed Crane, then-president of the Koch-funded Libertarian CATO Institute, noted in a memo that year:

“When Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Vin Weber, Connie Mack and the rest discovered Jude Wanniski and Art Laffer, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. In supply-side economics they found a philosophy that gave them a free pass out of the debate over the proper role of government. … That’s why you rarely, if ever, heard Kemp or Gingrich call for spending cuts, much less the elimination of programs and departments.”

Two Santa Clauses had fully seized the GOP mainstream.

Never again would Republicans worry about the debt or deficit when they were in office, and they knew well how to scream hysterically about it and hook in the economically naïve media as soon as Democrats again took power….

Please open the link and read the rest of the article.

NBC reports that North Dakota may impose a ban on sexually explicit books, especially those that refer to gender identity, on public libraries. Librarians who ignore the proposed ban will be subject to 30 days in jail. Since the bill was introduced by the House Majority Leader, it may pass.

Books containing “sexually explicit” content — including depictions of sexual or gender identity — would be banned from North Dakota public libraries under legislation that state lawmakers began considering Tuesday.

The GOP-dominated state House Judiciary Committee heard arguments but did not take a vote on the measure, which applies to visual depictions of “sexually explicit” content and proposes up to 30 days imprisonment for librarians who refuse to remove the offending books….

Library Director Christine Kujawa at Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library said the library has a book with two little hamsters on the cover. At the end of the book, the hamsters get married, and they are both male.

“It’s a cute book,” Kujawa said — but it would be considered pornography under the bill because the book includes gender identity.

Facing criminal charges for keeping books on shelves is “something I never thought I would have to consider during my career as a librarian,” Kujawa added.

In addition to banning depictions of “sexual identity” and “gender identity,” the measure specifies 10 other things that library books cannot visually depict, including “sexual intercourse,” “sexual preference” and “sexual perversion,” — though it does not define any of those terms. The proposal does not apply to books that have “serious artistic significance” or “materials used in science courses,” among other exceptions.

Thanks to Christine Langhoff for suggesting this article.

What’s going on in Florida? Governor DeSantis thinks that he should control what is taught in all public schools and in public higher education. He wants to make sure that everyone is exposed only to approved thoughts, his thoughts. He told all the state colleges and universities to report what they are spending on diversity, of which he disapproves. He has made it illegal to teach about racism, which he thinks is synonymous with critical race theory.

To understand Ron DeSantis and his ideology, you should first study critical race theory.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the state’s colleges and community colleges pledged not to “promote” critical race theory. What does that mean? Does it mean they will scrub the curriculum of any courses that teach about race and racism? Does it mean there will be no courses called “critical race theory?” I would love to hear from some professors in Florida.

The presidents of Florida’s 28 state and community colleges said in a statement on Wednesday that they would identify and eliminate, by February 1, any academic requirement or program “that compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.”

The unusual statement comes on the heels of a request by the office of the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, for public colleges and universities to submit comprehensive lists of their spending related to diversity initiatives and critical race theory. It’s unclear if Wednesday’s announcement is directly related to that request.

The presidents’ joint statement is unclear. Read into it what you will.

What is disturbing is the stench of thought control. I am gobsmacked by DeSantis’ total disregard for academic freedom and the First Amendment. Day after day, he chips away at norms, seeking the power to censor ideas he doesn’t like. Of course he goes after public schools and public higher education. But as he showed in his smack down of Disney, he’s quite willing to give orders to private corporations as well.

He appears to be growing into nativism, fascism, authoritarianism. It comes naturally to him.

Mercedes Schneider takes issue with the new authoritarians who are imposing book bans in the name of “freedom” and limiting free expressions of views they disagree with in the name of of “choice.”

She writes:

We are certainly in an age in which the term, “free speech,” is indeed not free because of increasing conservative pressure to shape speech into that which a minority of extreme, right-wing conservatives would agree with.

Of course, that is not “free speech” at all.

In my school district, the St. Tammany Library Alliance is combating the right-wing conservative push to ban library books not to its liking. In its campaign declaring “Libraries Are for Everyone,” the Alliance is circulating a petition that states the following:

St Tammany Parish is a welcoming community to all and we stand firmly against banning books. As such we endorse the following statements:

  • We believe that all young people in our Parish deserve to see themselves reflected in our library’s collection.
  • We know a large majority of Americans (75%) across the political spectrum oppose book bans.We stand in opposition to the St Tammany Parish Accountability Project’s proposed “Library Accountability Board” ordinance because we believe parents should not be making decisions for other parents’ children about what they read or what is available in our public libraries.
  • Banning books from public libraries is a slippery slope to government censorship and a violation of our first amendment rights.
  • We hold our library Director, board and library staff in high regard and trust them to do their jobs.

We are united against book bans and we ask that our Parish President and Council pledge to act to protect the rights of members of our community to access a variety of books, magazines and other media through our public libraries.

Those truly adhering to and protecting free speech are at risk of losing their jobs– and under increasing pressure to modify their speech in order to please the extreme, disgruntled few.

I gladly signed the petition. Even though it is not likely that I might choose to read certain books harbored in my local public library, there is something much greater at risk if I try to impose a self-tailored book purge, and that something is freedom itself.

Freedom is not freedom if I tailor the freedom of others to suit my own preferences.

A great irony is that some of the same folks who would shape education and curriculum into their preferred image also promote themselves as great advocates of “school choice.”

Mercedes goes on to describe examples of “choice” that is no choice at all.” Freedom is curtailed when one group of people can curtail the rights of others to disagree.

Please open the link and read her warning about the threat to democracy posed by today’s narrow-minded ideologues.

Think of the most extreme, most vitriolic, least responsible members of the GOP caucus in the House of Representatives. Think of the ones who defended the insurrection. Think of those who encouraged the effort to overturn our government. Speaker Kevin McCarthy just put them on the most important committee in the House, the one that will conduct investigations for the next two years.

Hunter Biden’s laptop! Hunter Biden’s Laptop! Jewish space lasers! QAnon! Pedophiles! The entire Biden family (unlike the Trump family) enriching themselves on your dime (please don’t bring up the $2 billion that the Saudis gave Jared Kushner after Biden took office!) Hunter Biden’s laptop! The hundreds of classified documents that Trump fought to hold onto for over a year, first claiming they were planted by the FBI, then claiming they were his personal property, and the small number of documents that Biden immediately turned over! Trump good, Biden bad! Laptop!

The New York Times reported:

WASHINGTON — They were deeply involved in President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. They have come to the defense of people being prosecuted for participating in the deadly storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Some have called for violence against their political enemies online, embraced conspiracy theories or associated with white supremacists.

Several of the most extreme Republicans in Congress and those most closely allied with Mr. Trump have landed seats on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, the main investigative organ in the House. From that perch, they are poised to shape inquiries into the Biden administration and to serve as agents of Mr. Trump in litigating his grievances as he plots his re-election campaign.

Their appointments are the latest evidence that the new Republican majority is driven by a hard-right faction that has modeled itself in Mr. Trump’s image, shares his penchant for dealing in incendiary statements and misinformation, and is bent on using its newfound power to exact revenge on Democrats and President Biden.

Many of the panel’s new Republican members — including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania — are among Mr. Trump’s most devoted allies in Congress. Their appointments underscore that, while the former president may be a shrunken presence in the current political landscape, he still exerts much control over the base of his party.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to stake his claim to be the leader of the libertarian anti-vaxxers. He has banned any mandates by schools or businesses to require masking or getting vaccinated. The legislature went along with him, on a temporary basis, but now he wants the legislators to mandate non-compliance with CDC public health protocols. (Because he opposes mandates!). In short, he is mandating that no one can require a mandate to wear a mask or get vaccinated.

Is he stupid, clever, craven, cunning or what? If nothing else, he’s getting attention.

The Miami Herald reports:

Despite facing pushback from medical professionals and businesses, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced legislation Tuesday that would make permanent a law to penalize companies that require employees to wear masks or be vaccinated for COVID-19 and added a new ban on medical boards reprimanding doctors for spreading COVID misinformation.

“This is just nuts that we’re still doing this,’’ DeSantis said to cheering supporters in Panama City Beach. “We need to be leading on this by making all of these protections permanent in Florida statute as we need to do in the upcoming legislative session.”

The proposal will attempt to make permanent a series of laws passed by legislators in November 2021 after DeSantis called a special session aimed at restricting Florida businesses that were following a federal law requiring mask mandates or requiring employees to be vaccinated. If approved by Florida legislators, the measure would continue to prohibit COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements in schools and government, and prohibit COVID-19 vaccine requirements for employment or travel.

Those laws are set to expire in June. DeSantis wants them re-enacted and made tougher to be sure that no one feels compelled to wear a mask or get vaccinated.

This year, DeSantis wants to expand the sanctions on businesses by prohibiting employers from hiring or firing based on vaccine status or wearing a mask, and he wants to revive a failed proposal from last year’s legislative session that would make it more difficult for a medical licensing board to reprimand or sanction a doctor for views expressed by the medical professional — including on social media.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo also spoke at the news conference Tuesday and repeated his claim that masks are not effective in preventing the spread of the virus and dismissed the effectiveness of vaccines. “This is the first time in history where we are using this technology widely in human beings,’’ he said, referring to the mRNA vaccines.

“You’re telling people to put it in children, and you’ve never even shown the children to gain from it in terms of an actual help. That’s the land of crazy. Florida is the land of sanity.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website lists several studies that have shown masking to be helpful in curbing the spread of the virus. In January 2022, a CDC report found vaccinated Americans were far less likely both to contract the virus and die from it.


House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell of Tampa called the governor and his administration “the No. 1 peddler of misinformation from the anti-vax establishment.”

“It is a fake ideology with real consequences,’’ she said, noting that less than one-third of Florida’s nursing home residents, the most vulnerable age group, are up to date on their vaccines, even though the state Department of Health recommends it.

Driskell emphasized that “no one ever promised total immunity, but those vaccines do lessen the chance of infection and they increase the likelihood of a milder case if you do get sick.” She accused the governor of “rewriting history” after promoting the vaccines when they were first available.

Since former President Donald Trump lost his reelection bid, DeSantis sought to become the face of the opposition to the Biden administration’s COVID policies which the governor said were overreaching. He called lawmakers into special session in November 2021 to punish companies that followed the federal law.

DeSantis wanted the legislature to punish businesses that required their employees to get vaccinated, but more than 100 corporations objected to the state’s interference in their operations, and the legislature did not adopt DeSantis’ most punitive measures. However, after his sweeping re-election, the legislature is likely to give him what he wants…

“The Free State of Florida did not happen by accident,” DeSantis said at the news conference Tuesday in which he took no questions. “It required us over these last few years to stand against major institutions in our society — the bureaucracy, the medical establishment, legacy media and even the President of the United States — who together were working to impose a bio medical security state on society.”

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